This oven baked salmon recipe comes together in under 30 minutes, making it a perfect addition to your weeknight meals! It's packed with flavor, doesn't take many ingredients, and is super easy to make.
This salmon is my go-to recipe for days when I'm short on time but need a flavorful, healthy meal!
For the salmon, you can use skin on or off. I personally prefer skin off because it doesn't really crisp up in the oven, so it's not too enjoyable to eat. You can also make one large salmon (about 2 pounds) for this recipe. Bake time will take an extra 5 to 10 minutes.
This recipe features a bit of a unique method for getting garlicy flavor into the salmon! Instead of mincing or grating the garlic (more traditional), we're going to leave it whole, cut little holes in the surface of the salmon, and embed the garlic within the meat! I love this method more for 2 main reasons.
The first (and most important) reason is that small pieces of garlic tend to burn very early on in the bake time - before the salmon even has a chance to cook. Not only does this look unappealing, but the flavor of burnt garlic is a huge disappointment.
Larger garlic will take longer to cook, and by inserting it into the salmon, it helps insulate the garlic even more to avoid burning.
The second reason I like to add larger pieces of garlic is largely for flavor. Large pieces of garlic do a great job at imparting a garlic-y flavor to the salmon from the inside out.
ANNNND once the salmon is cooked, you have little pieces of roasted garlic that you can enjoy with the salmon! Win-win.
A final note I want to make on this salmon is about the addition of granulated sugar. If you've already read the recipe, you'll notice I include a ¼ teaspoon of sugar on top of each fillet in the end before baking. This is 100% optional, but I really recommend giving it a try!
Adding sugar to your salmon won't make it taste overly sweet (but depending on your taste, you may need a pinch more salt once the salmon is cooked). What the sugar does do is it caramelizes while the salmon bakes and helps the salmon develop a nice deep golden color on top with an almost nutty, toasty flavor.
Lemon & Garlic Baked Salmon Recipe
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 1 lemon
- ¼ cup cold water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste if needed
- 4 fresh salmon fillets, about ½ pound each
- 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half horizontally *(see notes)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- fresh lemon slices and chopped parsley (optional - for topping)
- Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 400°F.
- In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, water, olive oil, and salt. Whisk together to combine, and set aside.
- Arrange salmon fillets in a 9x15 inch baking dish. **(see notes) Cut 2 shallow holes on the surface of each fillet on the thicker end of the salmon. Take care not to cut through to the bottom of the salmon. Insert half a garlic clove into each hole so it's embedded within the meat.
- Pour the lemon juice mixture on top of the fillets. Sprinkle each fillet with granulated sugar (which helps yield better browning on the fillets!) and black pepper.
- Bake the salmon in your preheated 400°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the salmon is golden on top and cooked through. If needed, broil for about 1 to 2 minutes on low at the end of the cooking time to caramelize and brown the top.
- Take the salmon out of the oven, and serve plain or garnished with lemon slices and parsley.